South African sugar cane growers in Amatikulu, northern KwaZulu-Natal, have rallied together to raise enough capital to buy Unitrans’ assets in the two operational areas.
Longstanding haulier Unitrans’ ceased cane haulage operations in their area, impacting the income of 50 commercial growers and more than 2 500 small-scale cane growers in Felixton and Amatikulu.
In a statement on Wednesday, the cane growers said with support from 95% of affected farmers they had formed their own company, Zululand Agricultural Holdings (ZAH), which bought Unitrans’ assets. The assets included 15 rigid-drawbar truck combinations and various moveable equipment used at the depot to haul cane.
Large and small-scale growers, who deliver cane to the Amatikulu mill, have became shareholders in the company.
The cane farmers have also secured a long-term lease agreement with Tongaat Hulett for the use of a depot and office complex.
Dave Littley, managing director of ZAH, a cane grower with experience in transport logistics, project management, and engineering said: “During 2013/14 and 2014/15, the company successfully managed to haul a total of 859 000 tons of cane despite the tough drought stages that the agricultural sector experienced”.
“We took over Super Group Melmoth’s cane haulage business in 2016, and two vehicles from Alternate Sure Haulage. Furthermore, we continue to upskill existing staff and assist in the training of handicapped individuals.”
General manager of ZAH Alan Gordon said: “Since its first year of operation to date, ZAH has increased revenue by 400% and the fleet has grown from 15 to 42 trucks, three tractors, and two Bell loaders.
“ZAH experienced the challenge of having to establish a new company from scratch in a short period of time which was overcome by handling all aspects of a medium-size operation with a dedicated team.”
Gordon said ZAH employs 120 workers and “our client database grows annually by about 15%”.
He said all shareholders were paid back dividends on their ZAH shares and R2.7-million worth of dividends were paid to the participating small-scale growers and cooperatives in 2016/17
Nkonzo Mhlongo, Tongaat Hulett socio-economic development manager, said his company played an influential role in providing guidance to ZAH, assisting the firm with “the alignment of the administrative processes and brought on board new clients who positively impacted the growth of the company”.